PhD Studentship: Harnessing the Power of Novel Microorganisms for Landfill Leachate Treatment

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Start Date: 1st October 2018

Supervisor: Dr Laura Lehtovirta-Morley

Project description: Landfill sites in the UK produce annually 5 million tonnes of leachate with a high ammonium concentration. Although ammonium is a naturally occurring nitrogen compound, it is extremely detrimental to the environment and climate change when present in high concentrations. The aim of this studentship is to develop novel, efficient ways to remove ammonium from landfill leachate using the microbial anammox (anaerobic ammonium oxidation) reactions.

This project explores an exciting and novel microbial process in a previously underexplored ecosystem, the constructed wetland. The student will characterise and manipulate nitrogen cycling microbial communities in constructed wetlands at the landfill site in Norfolk. Over the course of the project, the student will 1. Identify the environmental factors driving the abundance of nitrogen cycling microorganisms, 2. Quantify the contribution of different processes (anammox, denitrification) to nitrogen turnover in the wetlands, and 3. Optimise the ammonium removal process by enriching and seeding wetlands with novel nitrogen cycling microorganisms from the landfill site. 

This project is suited to candidates with a BSc or MSc degree in a Microbiology-related discipline.

The student will receive training in a broad range of cutting-edge techniques in microbiology, molecular biology (qPCR, RT-qPCR, DNA fingerprinting), isotope analysis and gas chromatography. This is a CASE studentship between the UEA and Norfolk County Council, with an exciting opportunity to experience both basic and applied aspects of science, and includes a 3-month placement with the project partner.

This Industrial CASE project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition on either the 9th, 10th or 11th January 2018.

The Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4 year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Person specification: Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,553pa – 2017/8), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:

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